There are 12 components to an epic football game. (Of course there are.)
Some games check off four, or five, of six of those boxes. Those games are memorable. Some games check off nine or ten. Those games are historic.
Some games hit on all, or almost all, twelve. Those games are rare, precious, legendary. We just watched one in January.
The Epic Scale: Methodology
So, about those twelve categories. In the Epic Scale, each component is graded on a 0-10 scale. Due to weighting, the final score is out of a possible 300.
When the total is computed, a regular-season game might be lucky to score 120. A great playoff game might register 200. An average Super Bowl? Probably in the same range. A memorable, well-played title game could hit 250. Spoiler: the 2014 NFCCG destroys those scores.
Here are the twelve categories, which were selected without the 2014 game in mind.
A) What's on the line? Was it a postseason game or a significant late-season game? Weight = 4.
B) Drama. Were there lead changes and WPA swings? Were the teams evenly matched? Were there comebacks, multiple? Was there redemption or its opposite? Weight = 4.
C) Game-winning play: Was there one in the final minute? Weight = 4.
D) General quality on the field: Were both teams objectively great? Weight = 3.
E) Other memorable plays: Were there scores or turnovers or gambles that stick in a fan's memory, or that will be replayed on NFL Classic until the end of football time? Weight = 3.
G) Historical significance: Did the game portend the beginning or end of an era, or both? Weight = 2.
H) Personalities: Was there serious star power on the field and on the sidelines? Was there an unlikely hero? Weight = 2.
I) Was the game physical? Weight = 2.
J) Statistical significance: Did a player or a team accomplish something numerical worth celebrating? Weight = 1.
K) Controversy: Was there enough to stimulate conversation but not enough to taint the outcome? Weight = 1.
L) Viewership: Did the game reach a large TV audience? Weight = 1.
The three most important categories are weighted quadruple; the three next are weighted triple; the three next double; finally, the last three receive only single weight.
Scoring the NFCCG
A) Meaning = 10. In this scale, all conference title and SB games automatically get 10, divisional playoff games 9, wild-card games 8, late-season playoff implication games 6 or 7, rivalry games 4 or 5, others 0-3. Score = 40.
B) Drama = 10. The losing team led 10-0, then gave up the lead, then retook it, 17-10, then trailed 20-17, then had a chance to reclaim it again within the final minute. The victorious team saw its win probability fall below 25 percent on four (four!) separate occasions, while surpassing 75 percent three separate times. The teams each went for it twice on fourth down, converting three tries into one touchdown apiece. Score = 40.
C) Game-winner = 10. Yes there was one such play. Score = 40.
D) Greatness = 10. The game featured two of the very best teams in the league for two seasons running. The defending conference champion was playing the eventual Super Bowl winner. The teams were ranked 1st and 5th in wDVOA at the end of 2012, then again 1st and 6th in 2013. They'd combined for a 47-16-1 record in their past two seasons. Remove their games against one another and against the rest of the league in 2012-13, they posted a .762 winning percentage. Score = 30.
E) Big plays = 9. The game began with a fumble; Lynch responded with a rumble. Kaepernick galloped; he also got walloped. Vernon Davis got flattened, a critical turnover happened. Wilson let it rip; Sherman left a tip. Score = 27.
As you suspected, that stunning poem is the prelude to a glorious .gif parade.
First play from scrimmage, ruh-roh
The action about which Beast Mode is
Kaepernick giraffes his way downfield for 58 yards
Avril gives Kaep a tender, Lavigne hug
Vernon and Kam renew their fond acquaintance
Jermaine Kearse fumbles, but he doesn't? Not for the faint of heart
Lynch and Wilson briefly forget how to play football, at the worst possible time
"Fourth And Seven"
25+53-15=XLVIII (just trust me)
Seriously, all of that happened in one single game.
/pause for breath
F) Rivalry = 8. The NFCCG pitted two bitter rivals against each other, as you've noticed, but just misses being a 9 or a 10 only because the rivalry is still relatively new by NFL standards. Score = 24.
G) History = 8. Also kind of an "incomplete" on this one. There exists a possible upgrade for a 9 if Seattle's ascendancy continues and San Francisco becomes the foil for many years. Or if that win propels the Hawks to additional titles this decade, enough to turn Seattle into one of the most decorated franchises in league history. (Two more Lombardis would do exactly that, lifting the Hawks from a tie for 13th most titles to 6th most.) Score = 16.
TOTAL: 274 (out of a possible 300)
That's the score to beat. In Part 2, which'll run later this month, I'll run twelve games through the scale: four Seahawk playoff games, just for context, and eight of the most celebrated NFL playoff games ever. Pretty sure the 274's going to stand though.
Speaking of which, some research has led me to a temporary short list of Best Postseason Games Ever:
- Super Bowl XXIII, Montana wins No. 3 with a drive for the ages
- Super Bowl XXXVIII, which featured a game-winning kick after 37 points were scored in the fourth quarter
- Super Bowl XLII, Patriots' perfect season upended by fate and headgear
- AFC divisional playoff, 1/2/82, Chargers 41, Dolphins 38
- NFCCG, 1/10/82, The Catch, 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
- AFCCG, 1/11/87, The Drive, Broncos 23, Browns 20
- AFC wild card, 1/3/93, Bills 41, Oilers 38, yes, that game
- NFCCG, 1/17/99, Falcons 30, Vikings 27
- NFC wild card, 1/5/03, 49ers 39, Giants 38
- AFCCG,1/21/07, Colts 38, Patriots 34, truly epic
- NFC wild card, 1/10/10, Cardinals 51, Packers 45, ends on defensive TD in overtime
- NFC divisional playoff, 1/14/12, 49ers 36, Saints 32
The list is extremely non-comprehensive.
So your turn to shape Part 2 has arrived: tell me where I might've misjudged the NFCCG, and let me know which other game should be considered among the greatest of all time, and should thus be given a chance to top 274. Not that it will.